Since the founding of the Israelite nation from the patriarchal father, Jacob later known as Israel the nation was monotheistic believing in only one God who had blessed Abraham and later rescued the nation from 400 years of captivity in Egypt. God then appointed judges to rule over the people starting with Joshua who delivered them from the warring nations around them and ending with Samuel. Samuel later anointed Saul as the first Israelite king after people had demanded for a human king. After Saul’s disobedience of YHWH where he had refused to kill all inhabitants and animals from Philistia, Samuel was ordered by God to anoint and transfer the kingship to Judah, to the family of Jesse where David was anointed as the next king of Israel. He took up the kingdom of Israel after Saul’s death marking the beginning of Judean Monarch.
After the death of King Solomon, Northern Israel split under their first king Jeroboam leaving the south kingdom, with only two tribes Judah and Benjamin, from the twelve tribes of Israel. The Judean Monarch continued to exist even after the breakaway of Northern Israel until the Babylonian exile under King Nebuchadnezzar. The Judean monarch was from the start to the end ruled by the line of David, son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. This was in line with YHWH promise to King David that he was not to build God a house; instead God would build him a house, meaning an eternal kingdom from which Jesus traces his roots. The Psalms is divided into five books that most scholars believe was written over the kingship of King David to the Babylonian captivity. Some psalms can be traced to King David while the rest were written by different authors.
The Judean Monarchy was located in the Ancient Near Eastern Region in the Mediterranean. It had its capital in Jerusalem where the king’s palace and the Holy YHWH Temple was located. The kingdom was hereditary and ruled only by the line of David. David and Solomon ruled all the twelve tribes of Israel, while King Rehoboam up to the Babylonian captivity the Kingdom only ruled only true tribes that is, Judah and Benjamin. The temple was built by King Solomon and it played a great role in the kingdom.
Role of YHWH
Unlike most kingdoms and empires in the Ancient Near East the Judean Monarch only worshipped one God, YHWH. Judeans believed YHWH was the creator of the world, through the first man, Adam and Eve and was also the provider and controller of the universe. He had blessed the Israelite nation through their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/ Israel who was the father of the nation. It was Abraham who God promised the land of Canaan as the inheritance of his people Israel. God had also delivered the country from 400 years slavery in Egypt through Moses through a mighty victory over the Egyptian army and crossing over the Red Sea. God had also given Moses the great prophet, the Ten Commandmentswhich acted as the laws that governed the Judean Monarch. The laws guarding the life of Israelites were also stated in the Torah commanded by Yahweh.
Unlike other kingdoms at the time the king was not considered as a God, as it happened in the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian, Persian / Median and later Greek kingdoms. YHWH was the only God with the king his anointed earthly representative. The kings always consulted YHWH through prophets and prophetesses when making decisions concerning wars, droughts, construction and other kingdom issues. YHWH was the highest deity and unlike other gods in the region at the time, YHWH could not be carved as an idol, but rather his presence was everywhere (Grant 2011, 139-187).
In Psalms 2, it is clear that the Judean monarch was surrounded by many adversariesfrom all directions. These are the kingdoms of Assyria to the North, Egypt to the south, and the Babylonian kingdom to the East. These nations had continuously tried to conquer the southern kingdom after successfully defeating and taking the Israelites as captives. The Babylonians later succeed under the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar.
God declares of his choice of Israel as his earthly kingdom with his ruling city at Mt. Zion. God states that he chose Zion from all the places on earth as his earthly habitat, thus making all enemies of Zion, God’s personal enemies while friends of Zion and Judah are friends of God. He also states that he shall use his Kingdom in Israel to subdue the enemies until they are humbled. This represents the belief that God’s Judean kingdom will rule forever and have dominion over all the other nations that are enemies of Judah. The kingdom is blessed and thus friends of the kingdom are blessed through it while its enemies will be defeated and diminished through it.
YHWH was considered the provider and sole protector of the Judean Monarch.It was God who fought battles for the kingdom of Judah, under all the kingdoms that tried to conquer it.it was YHWH who defeated the Assyrians under King Hezekiah, confusing their troops and leading them to Libnah. Apart from their military strength, the Judean Monarch also put their belief and trust in God as their fortress and rock under which no harm could reach the kingdom. The only condition that guaranteed their protection was that they had to keep his statutes and be righteous in their conduct.All the anointed kings who ruled justly and in righteousness were assured of victory and a good reign protected from all enemies. God always empowered kings who worshipped and believed in him. He gave them power and strength to annihilate his enemies and the enemies of Judah, regardless of the size of their armies. Kings who worshipped foreign gods and practiced idolatry were to be challenged and defeated in all their plans. Psalms 110 declares that the Judean Kingdom will rule for eternity subduing all the earth. This means the later kingdom established by God through his son Jesus of the tribe of Judah, whose kingdom shall rule forever (Mowinkel 1962, 2).
Psalms describes the start and end of the Judean Monarch. From David to Zedekiah the last king, all the kings come from the tribe of Judah, family of Jesse and the Davidic lineage. God declares that he has established his kingdom in Mt. Zion which represents the Judean Monarch. From the Psalms 132 God declares that he has anointed the Davidic line to act as the earthly representatives of his royal kingdom until the end of times. This meant that the Judean Monarch was a true monarchy with the only people who could be kings being direct descendants of David, in order to fulfill God’s promise that the Davidic line will rule forever as his anointed lineage.
The appointed princes generally took over the kingship after the death of the king. Each king appointed a successor to prevent instances of conflict for the throne among his children. As the appointed of God, just and righteous kings were assured of God’s support in their reign by defeating their enemies and blessing their initiatives. Kings who went against the Lord were isolated and faced challenges and defeat from all sides from their tributes, neighboring kingdoms, droughts and famines. The king was the custodian of the Judeans in terms of security, religion, and development. The king therefore determined what the people worshipped and their relation with Yahweh. Evil kings made the monarch suffer while righteous kings blessed the monarch. With God as their protector and fortress, righteous kings were able to face stronger opposition from enemies such as Aram, Egypt and Assyria since God fought on their side (Bridge 2009, 360-378).
Psalms 110 states of the fact that God will fulfill his covenant with David where he shall establish an everlasting kingdom. A descendant of David from the lineage of Melchizedek (a messianic priest with no birth roots who Abraham paid a tithe and the first King of Jerusalem) was to take over the reign of Mt. Zion, freeing the Jews and all righteous from captivity and rule of evil. This represents of the belief of Babylonian captives that the Judean Monarch did not end with the fall of Jerusalem, but rather that God would send a messiah from the lineage of David who would establish an eternal kingdom and fetch all Jews from all the four corners of the earth. The messiah can be understood to be Jesus, who according to Psalms 2 will rule the earth for eternity after obliterating the enemies of God’s people.
Psalms 72 clearly indicates the extent to which God was willing to strengthen the Judean Monarch. As indicated God the kings who obeyed his statutes fully and ruled the people justly. A righteous reign guaranteed success and dominion over other kingdoms. Some of the countries that were to be conquered, bow to Zion and pay tributes to Judah includes Sheba and Seba representing that the kingdom would go as far south as Ethiopia which then represented Africa to the Eastern ends of Asia, Tarshish and all other worldly kings. Some of the Judean kings received tribute from Tyre and Tarshish, and who later rebelled against the Judean Monarch.
The Judean monarch had its foundation in the rule of YHWH as the creator and heavenly king. His laws were what governed the Judean Monarch. Some of the sources of the Judean laws were established under the 10 commandments which were given to Moses directly from God. Most of the commandments insist of the need to preserve only one God, YHWH who had delivered them from slavery. The commandments also advocated for righteous and justice among all a person’s action. Other civic interactions were guided by the laws given by Moses in the Torah for issues such as marriage, transactions, business and solving disputes (Whitelam 1986, 166-173)
All Judeans with God as their patron were expected to be righteous in their undertakings. This meant being truthful, just, loving the neighbor, fairness, worshipping only YHWH and keeping the Lord statutes. This was expected of every person from the king to the peasant. God being Omni-present always saw all actions of man and he blessed the good while punishing the evil. This applied to individual or state matters. It was the duty of the king appointed by YHWH to lead the people to righteousness by destroying foreign deities and being a role model to the people. In Psalms 101 God declares that in his kingdom, i.e. Judean Monarch there will be no space for the evil doers and people who practice deceit, instead his kingdom is for the faithful and just.
Priests and prophets
The role of the priest is highly regarded in the Judean Monarch. They acted as the link between all the people with God. They delivered God’s will to kings as well as the rest of the Judeans. They did not participate in any other activity except dedicating their lives to Yahweh. They received their sustenance from tithes and sacrifices from the people and received protection by the state. In Psalms 132 the ideal Judean kingdom will have their priests glorified through the Lord, receive salvation and always be joyful to YHWH their master.
Psalms teach us a great deal about the Judean Monarch. The first thing is that the kingdom though on earth is blessed from heaven and is God’s dwelling place as represented by the temple in Jerusalem. God is the universal king and he chose Judah as his kingdom on earth. This means that Judean Monarch was led by God through his commandments and statutes. God also chose the Davidic line as the everlasting rulers of his kingdom. As the king, rock, shelter and protector, YHWH blessed kings who followed his statutes while evil kings were punished. Psalms also discusses of the actual ancient Judean Monarch ruled by the kings of Judah until the captivity to Babylon, but also of a future kingdom with its roots in Judah where one of David’s sons will rise, conquer and rule the earth forever. This means the Judean monarch will rule forever through Jesus as king.
Bridge,Edward , ‘Loyalty, Dependency and Status with YHWH: the use of ‘bd in the Psalms’, (Rome: VetusTestamentum2009), 360-378.
Grant, Jamie, ‘The Psalms and the King’, in Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches (New York: Johnson, 2011), 139-187.
Mowinkel,Simmon, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962) ch3.
Whitelam,Walters, ‘The Symbols of Power: Aspects of Royal Propaganda in the United Monarchy’, (Florida: Biblical Archaeologist 1986) 166-173.